RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And we have news this morning that the CEO of NPR has been ousted. Vivian Schiller's departure follows an undercover video sting of NPR's former top fundraiser set up by a conservative activist.
The videotape of NPR money-raiser Ron Schiller - no relation - was made public yesterday. It shows him disparaging conservative groups during what he thought was a fundraising lunch with two people purporting to be from a Muslim group eager to contribute to public radio. In the videotape Ron Schiller slammed Tea Party activists, calling them xenophobic and racist. He said that NPR would be better off without any federal funding, though he did add that small stations would suffer.
This sting comes after CEO Vivian Schiller faced criticism for the dismissal last fall of news analyst Juan Williams. A statement released today by NPR's board of directors said Vivian Schiller's resignation, quote, "was accepted." But media correspondent David Folkenflik has learned she was forced out, and he joins us now.
And David, it's all over the Web, but for those who might not have seen it, tell us just a little bit more about the Ron Schiller video.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, the video was produced by a conservative activist, a young man James O'Keefe III - he, you may recall, targeted ACORN and in fact brought that community service group down. He also targeted Democratic Senator Mary Landreau and CNN and other groups that he has felt have a liberal agenda. In this case he was taping NPR's fundraisers. They were seemingly pandering to a couple of guys who presented themselves, as you said, as Muslim donors, and in fact he captured Mr. Schiller on tape making disparaging remarks about conservatives and about Tea Party elements.
I think it's important to mention, as you did in your introduction a moment ago, that of course all of this happens against a backdrop, and there are two kinds of backdrops. One is the dismissal of Juan Williams for which Vivian Schiller came in for a lot of criticism, and then former news chief Ellen Weiss ultimately lost her job.
But also the larger backdrop of federal funding, and in fact those same conservatives and Tea Party activists whom Schiller criticized have been leading the charge on Capitol Hill against public broadcasting.
MONTAGNE: Well, take us there then. What impact might this have on federal funding? Because obviously that's one of the things that Ron Schiller has said NPR could do without.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, calls for public broadcasting to lose all federal support have intensified from conservatives on Capitol Hill. Democrats have typically been more supportive. But those moderate Republicans who historically have been supportive are fewer in number up there. Republicans on the Senate side have also started to say this is time - at a time of budget deficits that are soaring, we can't afford the 400-plus million dollars a year given to the public broadcasting system.
It's a tenuous time. It clearly played into the thinking of the board. I spoke to board chairman Dave Edwards just a few minutes ago and, you know, he said that it was clear to the board that Vivian Schiller was perhaps not the best person to making that - the argument for public broadcasting at this time.
MONTAGNE: So what is next?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, right now they've named our chief lawyer, Joyce Slocum, as our interim CEO, and they're conducting another national search yet again.
MONTAGNE: David, thank you very much.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
MONTAGNE: That is NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik on the news that the CEO of NPR, Vivian Schiller, has resigned.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.